As we head into the colder months and spend more time indoors, it’s important to get up to date on the seasonal flu vaccine, as well as COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. We’ve pulled together the latest information from the Maine CDC, so you know where, when, and how to get the protection you need to stay healthy.
First, let’s remember the importance of the seasonal flu vaccine. Before COVID-19, this was one of the most important annual vaccination for most of us to get. According to the U.S. CDC, flu vaccination prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related provider visits each year. The CDC estimates that from 2019-2020, the flu vaccination prevented 7.5 million influenza illnesses, 3.7 million influenza-associated medical visits, 105,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 6,300 influenza-associated deaths.
The U.S. and Maine CDCs recommend that people six months and older get an annual flu vaccine as early in the fall as possible. Call your primary care provider (PCP) or your local pharmacy and schedule your flu vaccination today. The good news is that Health Options makes the flu vaccine available at $0 cost-share to Members, and you can receive a flu shot at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccination if you still need one (or two).
Also, just in time for holiday gatherings, COVID-19 boosters are available for some individuals who received the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at least six months ago. For those who got the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, booster shots are recommended for 18 and older and those who were vaccinated two or more months ago. Currently, the following groups are eligible for a booster shot:
- 65 years and older
- Age 18+ who live in long-term care settings
- Age 18+ who have underlying medical conditions
- Age 18+ who work or live in high-risk settings
If you’re eligible, you can get your booster shot anywhere that provides the COVID-19 vaccine. You may hear directly from your health care provider about getting a booster, or you may contact the locations linked below for an appointment. Many locations are also offering drop-in vaccinations with no appointment necessary.
For a final piece of vaccination news, COVID-19 vaccines are now widely available for individuals aged 5 and older throughout Maine. As the Delta variant continues to be a prominent strain, vaccination is the safest way to protect against severe illness in children and adults.
If you need help scheduling an appointment, or want to know if a site near you is offering vaccinations without an appointment, call the Maine COVID-19 Community Vaccination Line at (888) 445-4111. You may also search for COVID-19 vaccine availability here: Maine vaccination sites.
It’s also important to continue protecting unvaccinated children ages two and older, who should wear a mask in public spaces and around people with whom they do not live.
Your health, well-being, and safety are our priorities. Please call our Member Services at (855) 624-6463 for more information about vaccines and other preventive care benefits.
With so much focus on COVID-19 precautions, the seasonal flu could escape many peoples’ minds. But health experts want everyone to pay more attention than ever to preventing influenza this year. And, it's not too late to get a flu vaccination.
In an August 4, 2020 report on National Public Radio, Mark Thompson, an epidemiologist in the Influenza Division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said, "No year is a good year to get the flu, but this year — with COVID-19 also raging — it's especially bad.” He noted that "People who can avoid the flu will help reduce the burden on a U.S. health care system already overwhelmed by COVID-19.”